Is there a one-size fits all trading strategy?

There are strategies that may fit certain market conditions perfectly, but are far from universal solutions. The put ratio spread is like that adjustable hat with various notches, designed to fit different ‘heads’—or in this case, market scenarios. 

However, just like a hat that needs adjusting to fit correctly, this strategy requires a keen understanding of its mechanisms, potential rewards, and inherent risks. 

So let’s adjust that ‘hats’ and delve into the intricate details of the put ratio spread, ensuring we choose the right ‘size’ for the current market conditions.  

Quick Overview of Options Trading Basics

In options trading, there’s a specific type of financial instrument known as a derivative. The derivative, in this case a contract, is tied to an asset, such as a stock or an index. The concept is that you purchase the right, but not the obligation, to buy (through a call option) or sell (via a put option) this asset at a set price (strike price) before a set date (expiration date). Understanding this foundational principle is essential for navigating the complexities of options trading. 

If you go for a call option, you’re essentially betting that the asset’s price will increase. This allows you to purchase the asset at a price below market value and later sell it at a higher rate, profiting from the upward trend. Conversely, when you purchase a put option, you’re betting on a decline in the asset’s price. This enables you to sell the asset at a higher-than-future-market price, providing an opportunity to buy it back at a lower rate and profit from the downturn. 

But options trading isn’t solely about price speculation. It also functions as a financial safety measure. In more involved strategies, investors often use put options as a hedging strategy to offset potential losses in their portfolios, especially when a downturn in a specific stock’s value is anticipated.

While the promise of significant returns can make options trading appealing, it’s crucial to recognize its inherent complexities and risks. That’s where advanced strategies like the put ratio spread come into play, offering a blend of risk mitigation and profit potential in volatile markets. Now, let’s explore this strategy in greater depth. 

What is a Put Ratio Spread?

In the kaleidoscope of options trading strategies, the put ratio spread holds a distinct and dynamic spot. Characterized by its flexible design and multi-faceted application, it’s one of many advanced strategies that involves trading put options at varying strike prices.

The crux of a put ratio spread involves selling more put options than you buy, all with matching expiration dates but different strike prices. You’ll often find this structured as buying one put option while selling two or more at a lower strike price. It’s this imbalance in the number of bought and sold options that lends the strategy its name—a ‘ratio’ spread. 

The goals for employing a put ratio spread can differ, often hinging on market conditions and trader outlook. Typically, traders use this strategy to capitalize on rising volatility or to shield against downside risk, especially if a moderate price decline is expected for the underlying asset. Even if the asset’s price remains stable or inches upwards, the trader might still profit from the higher premiums collected from the sold puts.

However, let’s not mistake the put ratio spread as a panacea for all market scenarios. Its effectiveness largely depends on the specifics of each trade, like the chosen strike prices and the ratio of sold to bought puts. It offers a profitable pathway in multiple situations but requires a keen understanding of the interplay among its variables. 

What sets the put ratio spread apart from beginner options strategies is its asymmetrical structure and the adaptability it affords. Unlike most other spreads, the ratio element of this strategy provides multiple avenues for profit, making it a notably flexible tool in a trader’s toolkit.

With this groundwork laid, let’s proceed to explore how to construct a put ratio spread and how your choice of strike prices and ratios can shape the strategy’s performance. 

Constructing a Put Ratio Spread

Crafting a put ratio spread necessitates buying one put option and then selling two or more put options at a lower strike price, all carrying the same expiration date.

Buy a Put Option: The first step is to acquire a put option at a designated strike price, forming the ‘long leg’ of your spread. This move offers a safety net against significant downturns in the underlying asset’s value.

Sell Put Options: Concurrently, you’ll sell two or more put options at a lower strike price, making up the ‘short leg’ of the spread. This action generates premium income, which can offset the cost of the purchased put and enhance the overall profitability of your position.

The payoff diagram below visually maps your potential gains and losses against stock prices at option expiration.  

An image illustrates a profit/loss chart for a put ratio spread. On the Y-axis is profit/loss, and on the X-axis is the stock price at expiration.

Profit/ loss diagram of a put ratio spread, illustrating the varying profit and loss potential across different stock prices at expiration.

You can see that if the price falls too much, you risk the scary plummet towards unlimited losses. But as the underlying price rises, the graph reaches its peak at the strike price of the purchased put, indicating maximum potential profit. It then levels off in a horizontal ‘valley,’ protecting you, signifying limited loss or gain between the two strike prices. 

It’s imperative to note that the ratio between the long and short legs isn’t fixed at 1:2; it can fluctuate based on your market outlook and risk tolerance. Thus, the selection of strike prices, expiration dates, and the ratio of sold to bought options should be harmoniously aligned with your trading objectives and risk management strategies. Such thoughtful planning accentuates the versatility of the put ratio spread in the multifaceted landscape of options trading. 

Evaluating Returns, Potential Losses, and Risks

Embarking on a put ratio spread journey promises enticing returns, yet it’s also fraught with inherent risks and the possibility of financial setbacks. Consequently, a good evaluation of these factors is indispensable before implementing this strategy.

In the arena of profitability, the put ratio spread truly comes into its own in a mildly bearish or a flatlining market. The zenith of profit is reached when the underlying asset’s price matches the strike price of the options sold at their expiration date. It’s pivotal to note, however, that the profit ceiling is capped at the difference between the strike prices, less the net premium outlay.

Flip the coin, and you face the prospect of unlimited losses should the underlying asset’s price plummet sharply. While a bearish market adds an element of danger, the risk is partially mitigated by the premium income earned from selling additional put options.

In assessing risks, one must weigh the influence of implied volatility (IV). A surge in this parameter can inflate option premiums, thereby upsetting the strategy’s equilibrium. Conversely, a dip in IV, while potentially advantageous, doesn’t offer guaranteed benefits due to the multifaceted interplay of the various options in the spread. 

These sudden swings in price can be particularly worrisome for investors that want to be involved, but can’t always be checking their positions, so many opt to receive trade signals so they don’t miss out or have their profits dissolve. 

Other considerations include assignment risk. The short puts in your ratio spread are vulnerable to early assignment, leaving you with the long put and the attendant exposure to swift price shifts in the underlying asset.

In summary, while the put ratio spread can be a lucrative venture under the right market conditions, it demands a meticulous analysis of market trends and a thorough grasp of the mechanics of options trading. 

Example of a Put Ratio Spread

Let’s venture into an example of executing a put ratio spread.

Suppose you’re eyeing Disney (DIS), presently trading at $80 per share. You forecast a stable or slightly declining price. To monetize this outlook, you opt for a 1:2 put ratio spread.

Here’s the action plan: You purchase one put option with a $90 strike price, costing a $3 premium. To offset this, you simultaneously offload two put options at a $80 strike price, each fetching a $2 premium. The equation balances out—the premium gained from selling the two put options neutralizes the cost of the one you bought.

Come expiration, if DIS trades at $90, all options evaporate into worthlessness, and you break even. If the stock hits $80, you’ve hit the profit jackpot. But if the price nosedives below $70, losses accrue due to your obligation to purchase DIS at $80 via the extra sold put option.

This scenario portrays the dynamics and potential outcomes of a put ratio spread, showcasing its practicality. 

Pros and Cons of a Put Ratio Spread

Every investment approach, including the put ratio spread, comes with its own set of virtues and vulnerabilities. Comprehending these nuances enables traders to judiciously assess the strategy’s fit for their unique profiles.


The put ratio spread’s standout feature is its adaptability. It can generate gains in a variety of market climates—be it stable, moderately bearish, or even marginally bullish. This adaptability offers traders a hedge against the capricious nature of market movements.

Another feather in its cap is risk management. The strategy provides a safeguard against moderate price drops, and often at a minimal cost, thanks to the negligible or even zero net premium.

Lastly, for the seasoned trader well-versed in its intricacies, the put ratio spread adds a layer of strategic depth, expanding the toolbox beyond basic put or call options.


However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…

The put ratio spread harbors the risk of unlimited losses on the downside. A substantial dip in the underlying asset’s price could trigger significant financial erosion due to the extra sold put option.

Furthermore, the strategy’s complexity poses a formidable barrier for novices. Even minor miscalculations in predicting price movements can translate into tangible losses.

Put Ratio Spread vs. Long Put Spread

Choosing between a put ratio spread and a long put spread is like deciding between a mountain bike and a road bike—each has its own perks and quirks, depending on where you’re riding.

The long put spread, also called the bear put spread, is your basic, no-frills option. Imagine you’re buying and selling two put options with different strike prices but the same expiration date. This is your go-to if you think the market’s going for a mild downturn. It’s the safety-first choice; you’re risking only what you put in upfront. But don’t expect to strike gold—the most you can make is limited to the gap between those strike prices, minus what you paid in premiums.

On the other hand, the put ratio spread is like your Swiss Army knife of strategies. You buy one put option and sell two or more at a lower strike price, all with the same expiration date. This is a more versatile tool, working for you whether the market is chill, a bit down, or even a tad up. But watch out, versatility comes with a cost—you could be looking at huge losses if the market tanks big time.

So, what’s it going to be? The long put spread is like an easy-listening station—great for predictable vibes and limited risk. The put ratio spread, on the other hand, is more like your wild-card playlist—lots of versatility, but the tunes could go from mellow to head-banging without much notice. Knowing your risk tolerance and what you think the market’s gonna do will help you pick your jam. But make sure you’ve practiced enough with both before you hit the live stage. 


In the volatile arena of options trading, the put ratio spread emerges as a Swiss Army knife—a vertical spread strategy capable of adapting to various market climates; be it stability, mild bullishness, or moderate bearishness.

Yet, this tool isn’t without its intricacies. It demands a good understanding of its mechanics, precise selection of strike prices and expiration dates, and an unwavering eye on market trends.

For those seeking a more straightforward, safety-first alternative, the long put spread beckons. Especially beneficial for traders who anticipate a moderate fall in price and want to limit downside risk, this strategy serves as a more navigable pathway.

In summation, the put ratio spread stands as a versatile yet intricate method within the realm of options trading. To wield it effectively, traders must couple keen market insights with prudent position management. Its potential rewards are notable, but they come with their own set of risks—underlining the enduring need for well-informed and vigilant trading. 

Unraveling the Put Ratio Spread: FAQs

What Exactly is a 1:2 Put Ratio Spread?

A 1:2 put ratio spread is a specialized version of the put ratio spread strategy, in which a trader buys one put option while simultaneously selling two put options at a lower strike price. This setup aims to capitalize on limited downside movement of the underlying asset.

What Constitutes the Most Effective Ratio Spread Approach?

The “most effective” ratio spread strategy is not one-size-fits-all; it varies based on the trader’s market outlook, risk tolerance, and the underlying asset’s price behavior. For those with a moderately bearish perspective, a 1:2 put ratio spread could be well-suited. In essence, the optimal strategy aligns seamlessly with an individual trader’s market expectations and comfort level with risk.

Is a Ratio Spread Generally a Viable Strategy?

Employing a ratio spread can be advantageous, particularly when a trader anticipates minimal fluctuations in the underlying asset’s price. The strategy allows traders to benefit from the time decay of the sold options, while the purchased option serves as a safeguard against larger-than-anticipated price movements.

How Can One Hedge a Put Ratio Spread Effectively?

Hedging a put ratio spread is generally a dynamic process, requiring adjustments in accordance with market shifts. For instance, if the underlying asset’s price takes a steep downward turn, traders could consider buying additional put options to mitigate losses. Conversely, if the asset price appreciates, selling off a portion of the position might be a prudent move.